Monday, December 31, 2007

Measuring 2007

As I reflect on the year that was 2007...

powered by ODEO

Thank you!

...for a year of shared outrage, frustration, laughter, friendship, perspective,
and some really mean cyber hooch.

Come In..., originally uploaded by Jump Girl.

Fire's inside; blankets are in the trunk by the door.

Peace, Love, and Merry Merry...

Sunday, December 30, 2007

New Year's Resolution... not have unprotected intercourse with this man!

Roll of the incautious:
  • Spain's Conservatives - Gone April, 2004

  • Silvio Berlusconi (Italy) - Defeated June, 2005

  • Bush's Pooch, Tony Blair - Stepped aside, May 2007

  • Australias's Liberals - F*cked the big dog, Nov. 2007
    (John Howard, the PM, couldn't even hold his own seat)
And most tragically:
  • Former Pakistani PM, Benazir Bhutto - Assassinated, Dec. 2007
Apparently 'regime change' begins with Bush.

(Thanks to the New Yorker for the inspiration.)

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Saturday Open Thread.

Michael Franti & Spearhead: "Time To Go Home."

Last weekend of the year. Make it a safe one, Mobsters.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Pink Floyd University - Voter Caging

Where to begin? So much infamy, so little time. So much truth in Art, and so many approaches. It's probably most wise to begin by quoting the Masters:

Did you exchange a walk-on part in the War
for a Lead role in a cage?"
Kris Kobach, Chairman of the Kansas GOP hopes you did as I learned from billw at Kobach had the unbridled temerity to send an email bragging about the fact that

To date, the Kansas GOP has identified and caged more voters in the last 11 months than the previous two years!” […]
My worn out Outragemeter instantly popped into explodotron mode as I read through the article at C&L which I highly encourage you to do. Fortunately, there enough examples from the Pink Floyd cannon that capture some sentiments about Kobach nicely, among them:

House proud town mouse,
Ha ha, charade you are
You're nearly a treat,
But you're really a cry
You radiate cold shafts of broken glass
Yes, those lines are all from "Pigs." (And I didn't use the most profane one either.) This sort of behavior is beyond swinish. It's not only illegal, it's positively un-democratic and anti-American, literally ANTI-AMERICAN as this endeavor seeks to rob other Americans of their Constitutional rights, not to mention the only opportunity we have in this representative system of ours to have ANY voice whatsoever.

It seems as if the lyrics to "Wish You Were Here" are no longer rhetorical, politically. Read/watch the following, substituting "Principled Leaders" for "you."

So, so you think you can tell
Heaven from Hell,
Blue skies from pain.
Can you tell a green field
From a cold steel rail?
A smile from a veil?
Do you think you can tell?
And did they get you to trade
Your heroes for ghosts?
Hot ashes for trees?
Hot air for a cool breeze?
Cold comfort for change?
And did you exchange
A walk on part in the war
For a lead role in a cage?
How I wish, how I wish you were here.
We're just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year,
Running over the same old ground.
What have you found? The same old fears.
Wish you were here.

If you find you have 15 minutes to watch about how exactly voter caging works, you can see Greg Palast explain it here.

There are 3 things you can do about this.

1- Make YOURSELF bulletproof. Make sure you are accurately registered with your Secretary of State so that YOU cannot be caged. You do not want to leave your polling place next year having cast a "provisional" ballot.

2- Make others aaware, and encourage them to become bulletproof themselves.

3- Contact your congresscritter and tell them that Kobach's behavior is un-American, illegal and demand an FEC inquiry into violations of this consent decree. See, the Republicans have been caught doing this before.

UPDATE: dday has been posting at Digby's blog, and has some more on this issue

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Killing in the name of... what, exactly?

(International Herald Tribune) Dec. 26 - The U.S. death penalty bombshells this year - a de facto national moratorium, a state abolition and the smallest number of executions in more than a decade - have masked what may be the most significant and lasting development. For the first time in the modern history of the death penalty, more than 60 percent of all American executions took place in Texas.

Over the past three decades, the proportion of executions nationwide performed in Texas has held relatively steady, averaging 37 percent. Only once before, in 1986, has the state accounted for even a slight majority of the executions, and that was in a year with 18 executions nationwide.

But this year, enthusiasm for executions outside of Texas dropped sharply. Of the 42 executions this year, 26 were in Texas. The remaining 16 were spread across nine other states, none of which executed more than three people. Many legal experts say the trend will probably continue.

David Dow, a law professor at the University of Houston who has represented death-row inmates, said the day was not far off when essentially all executions in the United States would take place in Texas. “The reason that Texas will end up monopolizing executions,” he said, “is because every other state will eliminate it de jure, as New Jersey did, or de facto, as other states have.”

Charles Rosenthal Jr., the district attorney of Harris County, Texas, which includes Houston and has accounted for 100 executions since 1976, said the Texas capital justice system was working properly.

The pace of executions in Texas, he said, “has to do with how many people are in the pipeline when certain rulings come down.”

The rate at which Texas sentences people to death is not especially high given its murder rate. But once a death sentence is issued there, prosecutors, state and U.S. courts, the pardon board and the governor are united in moving the process along, said Richard Dieter, the executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center.

There’s almost an aggressiveness about carrying out executions,” said Dieter, whose organization opposes capital punishment. [Outraged emphasis mine.]

Here’s the rest. So maybe one of our visitors from Texas could explain this to me. I understand that capital punishment can be more of a political issue than a “justice” issue, that we’re talking more about accumulating votes than we are about solving the problems relating to crime, at least in many places in America that still use the death penalty. But what is it about Texas? Why are Texans so willing to have their state on the same list as China, Iran, North Korea, and Saudi Arabia (amongst others) as being amongst the worst abusers of human rights on the planet, at least in terms of state-sponsored murder?

In 2006, there were 1,384 murders in the state of Texas. That IS down from a high of 2,652 in 1991. So, we can assume that supporters of the death penalty will say that the use of executions is having a “deterrent effect” on crime. Okay. So how to explain the fact that there were STILL 1,384 murders there in 2006?

Then there’s this: New Jersey has no death penalty. We just abolished it here. We hadn’t executed anyone here in who can remember how long. In 2006, we had 428 murders.

Go figure.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve Open Thread

I make no secret about being a non-believer, but connecting with family, the carols, the tinsel and glitter will always be there for me. Some things you pick up in childhood and never forget. And anyone who doesn't like the idea of Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men (and Women!!) is just a fool.

As for the caroling, this is my favorite. I listened to a few secular versions including one by Christina Aguilera and a couple of guitar instrumentals but the song is best in its original 'churchy' choral form. I just love the interplay of all the different voices.

The Westminster Cathedral Choir

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Friday, December 21, 2007

The trouble with the truth.

I’ve been thinking about this essay since the day it was published:

What’s a Teacher to Do?

No teacher wants to tell her students that their president is a liar and a criminal. And yet, our president is a liar and a criminal. As a teacher, should I tell children the truth, and act to uphold our Constitution and Bill of Rights?

I am charged to do just that through the legally binding state and local professional educator standard, requiring me to model the democratic ideal. My failure to do so could be grounds for my dismissal. But here’s the catch: doing so could also be grounds for my dismissal! What’s a conscientious teacher to do? Seize the teachable moment! Model the democratic ideal of participatory democracy by writing a guest opinion, a right all citizens have, thanks to the First Amendment. Kids, listen up. Here’s the truth.

This president has led us into a disastrous war through lies and deceit. It is a “high crime and misdemeanor” to lead a country into war through lies and deceit. Everyone agrees that students should have consequences when caught lying or cheating on tests. Teachers would get fired if caught lying or cheating on professional documents. Should we let the president get away with lying and cheating the American people?

And for the rest of the piece, teacher Wendy Rochman ponders the question: Aren’t we as teachers obligated to tell our students the truth, especially when they ask us for it, even if the truth as we see it might ruffle some feathers (meaning that Junior or Buffy might take that truth home and tell Mum and Daddy, who will then call the principal, demanding the teacher’s head on a pike)? Isn’t this especially true when we have a president who seems to have a severe allergic reaction to the truth, and who is destroying this country because of it?

We expect teachers to treat all students in an equitable manner. In fact, teachers are required to provide “equal learning opportunities” for all and be fair and equitable in upholding policies. Blatantly under-serving any student or ignoring any policy would put a teacher’s future employment into jeopardy. Furthermore, it’s against the law. What’s a professional educator to do? Expose and repair inequities!

This president claims that not all legislation needs to be enforced equally. With his signing statements, he decides what laws he wants to ignore. This undermines our constitutional system of checks and balances, which protects us from dictatorship. Should this president get away with ignoring the law and treating legislation inequitably?

The rest is here, and it’s worth your time.

Of course, critics of Ms. Rochman’s thesis will say that this is not “truth,” but opinion. She’s foisting her opinions on her kids, who are a captive audience. What I call “teaching,” right-wing critics of public education call “indoctrination.” And they’ll claim that teachers aren’t being paid to offer their “opinions.” We’re supposed to deal in facts, and most parents expect that facts should be it.

[This reminds of when Mrs Agitator and I went to Back To School Night this past September at my younger son’s high school. A smirking, rather smarmy parent asked the teacher in my kid’s World Civ class, “Do you believe everything you teach?” The teacher looked startled, as I would have been, coming out of the blue as the question had. I think the guy was trying to set the teacher up, and I sensed a follow-up pounce. The teacher was great, though. He collected himself, and then looked the dad right in the eye. “Yes,” he replied, “I do. And I will continue to do so until somebody can prove me wrong.“ And that was that. Next question.]

And, of course, that doesn’t happen. The facts-only part, I mean. That’s because education isn’t just about “facts.” It’s about ideas, and thoughts, and emotions, and, yes, opinions. Forming them, weighing them, pondering over them, sharing them, discussing them, arguing over them, changing them (sometimes).

Students, especially kids in the age group that I teach, want to know what their teachers think. They ask about our opinions on things all the time. They want to know how you feel about last Sunday’s Eagles’ game, about some pop star’s latest antics, about your favorite movie. Many kids these days feel more and more disconnected from their parents, even if they live with both biological life-givers. Many kids have their lives so heavily scheduled that they rarely if ever spend time just talking about stuff with one or both parents. Some kids spend virtually no free time with a parent, because the parent(s) are working so much, or are so caught up in their own busy-ness that they make no time for them. And many kids spend lots of time bouncing between two (and sometimes more) “homes,” and have no real connection to any of the adults in the lives.

Except us, their teachers. Because like us or not, the kids have to deal with us from 7:30 am to 2:00 pm, and sometimes longer, 180 days a year. And they really do want to know what the adults in their lives think. They really do care.

You’d think that discussion on topics like war and peace and social justice and stuff like that would be restricted to just a social studies class. Wrong. I teach reading and writing (and hopefully, soon, social studies, too), and what’s going on in the world comes up all the time. These topics come up when we discuss literature, because that’s what good literature does: it makes you ask questions about life. About the world. About the human condition. And when I teach writing, well, now, things just get completely out of control, especially when I teach persuasive writing or research writing. All those controversial topics! All that debate! All that argument! It’s amazing! We get loud, we get passionate, and everybody gets heard. We always discuss both or all sides of whatever issue is being kicked around, and at some point, the kids will inevitably ask me what I think. Sometimes, I pass on the opportunity. Just like when I blog, there are some topics I don’t share about, like my feelings about abortion. But sometimes I do share. I weigh my words carefully, but I tell them what I think. I share my “truth.”

I ran into this problem - whether or not to share - just this week. A member of our school community came to me asking if I’d help her out. A friend of hers had lost her son in Iraq earlier this year. The young man was killed in action this past spring. The mother was still in touch with the other men in her son’s outfit, an Army unit stationed in Anbar province. They’re out in the middle of nowhere, apparently: no running water, one hot meal a day, the whole depressing litany. She was hoping the maybe her friend - my colleague - could rustle up some school kids to send some holiday cards and letters to these guys, to make their lives a little happier for a moment.

Well, of course we could.

Now, every once in a while, I hear complaints from some of my anti-war, progressive friends (and Friends) that doing something that to them says you’re “supporting the troops” means you’re “supporting the war.” I always disagree. I personally do not have one of those phony-baloney magnets on my car, and never have. I think the whole yellow ribbon thing is a crock. I do not support the war. I hate the war. And I especially hate the fact that these folks have been sent over there because of a policy based on lies, deceit, and greed. I find their deaths to be an appalling waste and a terrible, irreparable tragedy. I do not care that they “signed up” and so they somehow can be seen as “deserving” what happens to them. Sorry, but no one deserves to be blown to pieces, shot to death, or maimed for life. I respectfully disagree with their position. No matter what I think of this war, no matter how screwed up and utterly wrong the people responsible for it might be, no matter how upset I get at the atrocities I read about, no matter how angry I get, I must temper all that with the knowledge that these are human beings we’re talking about. I do not agree with their choice to “serve” in this way, but the fact is they are there, in the way my father was there during the Korean War, in the way some of my older friends and neighbors were there during Vietnam. And they are our neighbors, our friends, our co-workers, our congregation members, our former students, our students’ parents and family members. They may be members of our families. And in spite of the fact that I do not like what they are doing over there, they are God’s children, too. And every day, I pray for them, to come home safe, and soon.

It would have been very easy for me to turn down the request that was made of me. My kids are right in the middle of a big writing project - our annual Oral History Essay - and the time it might take for each kid to knock out a card or two would be time away from this work. But I went along with it, for reasons that might make no sense to hard-core opponents of the war (of which I count myself a member). It was the right thing to do, I think. These guys are a million miles away from home. If they get a couple cheery cards from some middle school kids, wishing them well and expressing some compassionate sentiment such as “Stay safe!” or “Hope you come home soon!”, I have a hard time seeing how that’s a bad thing.

Besides, I have a 20 year old son. If he’d made a different choice, he could be one of them.

So the inevitable question got asked, as my kids dove into their card writing (with relish, I might add). “What do you think about the war, Mr. A.?” Well, I do have a “War Is Not the Answer” bumper sticker on one of my classroom filing cabinets: it’s really hard to miss. Then there are the anti-war and peace sign buttons on the lanyard that holds my ID badge (my “flair,” as my colleagues call it). And the anti-war and anti-Bush bumper stickers on my little truck. So, my sentiments are pretty much common knowledge to anyone I know who pays attention. But they asked me anyway. And so I told them. I shared my “truth”:

No, kids, I don’t support the war. I think the war in Iraq is wrong, and that it was started for a lot of very wrong and very bad reasons. I also believe that all war in general is wrong. War is the first resort of unimaginative minds. (They kinda frowned a bit at that line.) This is a deeply held belief I have had for many years, I told them. It’s also what my religion teaches me. But, I added, very real people are over there right now, and you know some of them (I have a number of kids with relatives overseas this year). The least we can do is share a kind word and a happy moment with them, especially at this time of year. (The cards won’t get there for weeks, but who cares.)

In the last three days, my writing students have composed over a hundred cards and letters for this one platoon of soldiers. They will each get at least three cards apiece. Some kids refused to participate, and that was fine with me. I didn’t ask why. I told them at the outset that this was a strictly voluntary activity. Some kids wrote three or four cards to different soldiers. Their notes were respectful, kind, and thoughtful. Not a lot of “hero worship,” just warm wishes for good health and a safe return. That’s where I had steered them, and that’s where they went. I am very proud of them.

They asked for my truth, and they got it.

Now it’s up to them to find their own.


An after-thought: After our mail went out yesterday, I had a visit from our principal, who stopped down to my room for a moment. She shared with me some very sad news. Last year at our eighth grade graduation, we’d invited three former students from our school who are all now active-duty military to come to the ceremony. They sat on stage in their uniforms and were treated as honored guests. I had a bit of a problem with the “militarization” of our program, but I was really in no position to do anything about it. It was what it was, and they are graduates of our school, not just props.

Well, one of them is home now. With a traumatic brain injury, caused by an IED. His life has been changed forever. And we have some more cards to write and send in January.

I hope none of the kids asks me what I think about that. That answer might get me fired.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Stall, Stall, and Stall Again

Did we expect such a nonsensical ruling from the EPA in the wake of the Supreme Court's decision in Massachusetts vs. EPA? Of course we did, and Administrator Stephen Johnson didn't disappoint, calling a stealthy 6:30 pm EST news conference to announce that, after 6 months of stalling, California would be denied a Federal exemption to put in place tough greenhouse gas emission standards for automobiles. Moreover, Johnson's explanation was simply a rehash of the same old tired evasive rhetoric that is the hallmark of Bu$hCo environmental policy:
"California is not exclusive in facing this challenge," Mr. Johnson said, adding that a national standard is "...a better approach than if individual states were to act alone."
But what this historically challenged Bu$hCo shill conveniently forgets is that 1) There is no national standard, 2) There is no precedent in the 40 year history of the Clean Air Act for turning down California's request for exemption, and 3) Individual states have been going it alone since the 1980's, doing for their own air what the Federal government refuses to do.
Far from trying to provide any movement on greenhouse gas regulation, Bu$hCo has managed to stall meaningful change since 2004 when California first passed its tough tailpipe regulations. First, by siding with Big Auto in their own suit to block California (dismissed a week ago, largely as a result of MA vs. EPA) and then by delaying an EPA decision until the last year of the administration, Bu$hCo has guaranteed at least another two years of inaction. And before anyone brings up the recently signed energy bill as a sign that Bu$hCo really cares about clean air standards, keep in mind that those mileage requirements don't come into force until 2020--plenty of time for a future Republican administration to put the kibosh on the 35 MPG standard. In signing that bill, Bush did nothing more than provide a 12 year 'license to pollute' to his paymasters in Big Auto.

And's back to court we go. Governor Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Brown have promised to sue, to dance to the administration's tune of, "Stall, stall, and stall again!" And why? Does anyone really think that another court order is going to allow California to go ahead? Won't the administration just appeal to a Supreme Court already packed with GOP cronies? I mean...just because the the EPA was ordered to consider the exemption is no guarantee that the court will find in favor of California on the grounds of state's rights or some such argument.'s time to defy the Feds. California should go ahead and implement the new standards; Tell Bu$hCo and the EPA to go and f*ck themselves; Tell Big Auto to comply or to stop selling vehicles in our state. I guarantee that, with a population approaching 40 million, no automaker, certainly no US automaker that wants to stay in business, can afford to stop selling cars in California.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Naomi Wolf Expounds

"They Did This in Germany"

OK, I've blogged before about Naomi Wolf and her book The End of America: A Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot. But having become aware of some much better YouTube footage (hat-tip Punditman at Another Point of View) I felt it was time to revisit the subject.

According to Wolf, would-be tyrants follow a readily identified blueprint for weaning a free society from their addiction to things like human rights and free elections.
Last autumn, there was a military coup in Thailand. The leaders of the coup took a number of steps, rather systematically, as if they had a shopping list. In a sense, they did. Within a matter of days, democracy had been closed down: the coup leaders declared martial law, sent armed soldiers into residential areas, took over radio and TV stations, issued restrictions on the press, tightened some limits on travel, and took certain activists into custody.

They were not figuring these things out as they went along. If you look at history, you can see that there is essentially a blueprint for turning an open society into a dictatorship. That blueprint has been used again and again in more and less bloody, more and less terrifying ways. But it is always effective. It is very difficult and arduous to create and sustain a democracy - but history shows that closing one down is much simpler. You simply have to be willing to take the 10 steps.

As difficult as this is to contemplate, it is clear, if you are willing to look, that each of these 10 steps has already been initiated today in the United States by the Bush administration.
That was from Ms. Wolf's article in Huffington Post, Ten Steps to Closing Down an Open Society. Here are the steps in bullet form:
  1. Invoke a terrifying internal and external enemy
  2. Create a prison system outside the rule of law
  3. Develop an unregulated paramilitary
  4. Set up an internal surveillance system
  5. Harass citizens' groups
  6. Engage in arbitrary detention and release
  7. Target key individuals
  8. Control the press
  9. "Dissent = Treason"
  10. Suspend the Rule of Law
It kind of reads like a shopping lists of concerns that the unruly mob have been decrying at length, doesn't it? OK, take the time to watch this interview. It's a fairly long one (nearly 40 minutes) but well worth the time.

Naomi Wolf Interview

And about the subheading - As Ms. Wolf explains, it is not hyperbole to compare the Bush regime to Nazi Germany. The important thing is that the comparison is to Nazi Germany in the '30s, before the outbreak of WWII. I don't expect you to enjoy the video, but I hope you at least appreciate its significance.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Bush Policies At Work

But Not For You

CNN ran a segment yesterday about the decline in donations this years for food banks, while the need has increased. They didn't put it up on their website, so here's a typical story, from San Diego:
Donations are down for food banks and charities in San Diego County and across the country. Blame it on a bad economy, high gas prices and growing debt.

It seems like San Diegans are just tapped out at a time when donations are crucial.

Donations for the San Diego Food Bank's annual food drive have been minimal, even though the need is greater than ever.

"There are more people that will be affected by hunger this year than we're evacuated in the fires this past year," said Jim Jackson.
I'd like to juxtapose that headline with this one from the New York Times:
"The increase in incomes of the top 1 percent of Americans from 2003 to 2005 exceeded the total income of the poorest 20 percent of Americans, data in a new report by the Congressional Budget Office shows.

The poorest fifth of households had total income of $383.4 billion in 2005, while just the increase in income for the top 1 percent came to $524.8 billion, a figure 37 percent higher."
The poor are getting worse off, and so are the middle class. One can hardly blame the latter for donating less this year than last with Bush-induced uncertainties about mortgages, job security and the shaky dollar one imagines them all worrying more about how they are going to provide for their own families. And I guess the rich just don't give a damn about the misery their greed has caused. Have they ever? BTW, if there's a war on the giving spirit of Christmas, it is this Grinch class of capitalists who are fighting it. And they're doing all right, Jack.

Len Hart puts it succinctly over at The Existentialist Cowboy:
"Unless you are a GOP insider, a Wall Street co-conspirator, or a part of the endemically crooked Military/Industrial complex, the GOP has bent you over and screwed you. Anyone supporting the GOP is either a GOP insider, a crook or an idiot.

We haven't seen incompetence on this scale since Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Ronald Reagan or Bush Sr."
The simple and sad fact is, as we approach Christmas there are too many who can't provide even a simple dinner for their families, let alone a lavish banquet. Then there are heating bills to worry about - it looks like this winter is going to be a cold one.

If YOU can spare it, I hope you will give to your local food bank. Or you can donate directly to Second Harvest, which supports over 200 food banks across the country.

And since you've all been nice unrulies this year:
(and from what I hear, some of you are nicest when you're being naughtie!)

John Lennon: So This is Christmas

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Open Thread


Monday, December 17, 2007

Calling All Unrulies!


Chris Dodd is ditching his Iowa campaign efforts in order to filibuster the odious FISA Immunity bill that the execrable Harry Reid is not only permitting, but actually sheparding to the floor of the Senate. The preposterousness of this latest asshattery can be found all over the blogosphere.

There's a particularly well written letter I saw at Greenwald's place, which I'll post in full:

I thank Senator Dodd for the opportunity to participate in this debate. For the Senate’s edification: I’m twenty-three years old and a new voter who isn’t going away any time soon.

The United States of America is founded upon the rule of law. Senators and representatives swear to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” According to the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution—a document for which centuries’ of blood and tears have been shed—“the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

Yet here the Senate stands, poised to grant immunity to telecommunications companies for profiting from the warrantless and lawless spying perpetrated upon the law-abiding citizenry; here the Senate stands, poised to usurp the judiciary, the branch of government responsible for determining whether the laws of the land have been broken and meting out punishment where appropriate; and here the Senate stands, poised to usher in its own irrevelancy—and, worst of all, in exchange for nothing: no promises that this flagrant lawbreaking will cease, no testimony to be offered in the course of real and rigorous investigation.

“Give me liberty or give me death,” said Patrick Henry. “Those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither,” said Benjamin Franklin. Now the telecommunications companies lobby the lot of you, saying, “Give us immunity, or we’ll suffer the consequences of our lawbreaking.” Now the President comes before you, saying, “Give my partners in crime immunity, or there’ll be investigations and findings that taint my legacy.”

Never mind the judiciary. Never mind that it’s the job of the courts to ascertain whether any laws have been broken. So Congress rushes in to save the day! Immunity for profit-driven corporations, amnesty for lawbreakers!

I submit to this body that the Founders are rolling in their graves.

Voters could be forgiven for not realizing the Democratic Party won control of both houses of Congress in the 2006 mid-term elections, for there’s so little evidence of any checks being brought against President Bush, whose polling to date is both abysmal and deserved. Yet now Democrats brandish the majority and usher in much of the same: more war, more lives lost, more of our tax dollars pouring into places I’ve never even heard of, and here we’ve got next to nothing to show for it. I hear citizens of other countries get something for paying their taxes; I can’t even imagine what that’s like.

And what are Americans to think, except that they’ve been betrayed by both parties? I congratulate Democrats and Republicans for their breathtaking cynicism, for how well they’ve worked together to engender so much apathy among voters that millions of Americans stay home on election day. What choices we have!

The legislature abdicates oversight, puts blind faith in the executive, and extends immunity to lawbreaking telecommunications companies. Are those companies to be pitied for going along with the President’s plan in direct contravention of the law and raking in cash? Are they, along with the President, to be congratulated for their foresight, considering that this warrantless spying upon Americans is reported to have gone on well before 9/11? (And mind you how well all of that illegal surveillance served to protect us on that awful day.) Are these companies to be respected more than voters? Are they to be granted immunity for lawbreaking, in return for nothing? Congress doesn’t even appear to be interested in leveraging immunity in return for testimony.

What will I tell my children? It’s fine to break the law if the president says so? It’s fine to break the law if you can lobby Congress to grant you immunity? It’s fine to break the law if you can stuff cash into the coffers of senators and representatives? What country is this? I say again: the Founders are rolling in their graves. For the past fifteen years, I’ve watched the news and felt disgust for the whole sorry lot of you.

You who purport to lead, yet cower like beaten dogs before the President, as if he were king. You who vote upon legislation you likely don’t even read. You who coif your hair into absurd, unmoving helmets and whiten your teeth and don designers suits and appear on TV, daring to tell me you represent my interests. You who pass pointless, meaningless resolutions condemning commercials and congratulating professional sports teams for winning while Americans go hungry, while Americans go without healthcare, while Americans work two jobs to make ends meet, while Americans die in Iraq and Afghanistan. You who swear an oath to support and defend the Constitution and flatter yourselves by conflating your re-election with the interests of your country and constituency. You who fret about keeping your powder dry until the are barracks overrun.

You who tell me to live in a constant state of fear, but to keep on shopping; do keep shopping. How proud my children should be to be born American! They’ll shop in the face of constant fear with fists full of credit cards. And I’ll say to them, “What shall we buy tomorrow, children?” But, of course, I have my own ideas: our very own Senator, our very own Representative, our very own President. I should buy the whole sorry lot of you to be heeded at all.

And so here is the Senate in all its majesty. Where are the Patrick Henrys, the Benjamin Franklins? God save America from her greatest enemy: a pack of pathetic, self-serving cowards.

Here's how you can help. Dodd's staff are scouring the blogs for comments to read in his filibuster effort. Go here to Firedoglake and comment, as we know that Dodd and staff regularly read there. Or, you can comment directly at the Dodd blog here.

Aside from that, if you're so inclined, a call or two wouldn't be bad either:

Name Fax Phone
Feingold (202) 224-2725 (202) 224-5323
Dodd (202) 224-1083 (202) 224-2823
Obama (202) 228-4260 (202) 224-2854
Sanders (202) 228-0776 (202) 224-5141
Menendez (202) 228-2197 (202) 224-4744
Biden (202) 224-0139 (202) 224-5042
Brown (202) 228-6321 (202) 224-2315
Harkin (202) 224-9369 (202) 224-3254
Cardin (202) 224-1651 (202) 224-4524
Clinton (202) 228-0282 (202) 224-4451
Akaka (202) 224-2126 (202) 224-6361
Webb (202) 228-6363 (202) 224-4024
Kennedy (202) 224-2417 (202) 224-4543
Boxer (415) 956-6701 (202) 224-3553

UPDATE: Our intrepid Antarctic correspondent the Station Agent has more, and more. You can also watch this historic day in the Senate here at C-SPAN2.

Note to my dear mob mates: please don't post over this for a good couple hours, or if you wish, reinforce the topic. Today is a major tipping point for our Constitution and the Rule of Law, and it needs all the help we can give it.

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

Meet the latest "worst humanitarian catastrophe in Africa".

As if Darfur and Congo weren’t bad enough…

AFGOYE, Somalia (McClatchy News Service) Dec. 16 - A year after the U.S.-backed Ethiopian army toppled a hard-line Islamist regime in Somalia, the country has become Africa’s worst humanitarian catastrophe.

Some 200,000 refugees, mostly women and children, have fled from a pro-government offensive to makeshift camps along a 10-mile stretch of sun-baked asphalt that leads from the seaside capital of Mogadishu toward the inland town of Afgoye.

The crisis is brutal on young people.

One night last month, Fatima Sheikh Ali awoke to the deafening crash of mortar rounds on her neighbor’s roof. Shrapnel blasted through Ali’s tin-walled home in Mogadishu, and sent her 13-year-old daughter, Muna, into her arms, quaking.

Sometime in the chaos of that night, Muna stopped speaking. In an overcrowded encampment of sand and scrub a few miles from the capital, where the family now lives among thousands made homeless by the war, Muna silently collects firewood and looks after her siblings, a worried gaze fixed in her eyes.

“She is traumatized,” her mother said, and a warren of women who had gathered around her murmured sympathetically. A nurse with the Somali Red Crescent Society said, “There is nothing to be done. It is a very sad story.”

The conflicts in Sudan’s Darfur region and in eastern Congo may have displaced more people, but international relief efforts in Somalia have faltered in the face of violence that has emptied entire neighborhoods in Mogadishu.

Most displaced Somalis, such as Muna’s family, live in dome-shaped huts made out of spindly tree branches and covered with tattered swatches of fabric or plastic. They sprout from the sand like multicolored mushrooms along the road from the capital.

The United Nations Children’s Fund said earlier this month that one-quarter of the refugees around Afgoye were younger than 5. Both sides are using older boys as combatants, and girls who venture out of the camps risk being raped by freelance militias, the agency said.

“Things are now getting absolutely worse,” said Christian Balslev-Olesen, UNICEF representative for Somalia. “There is a dirtiness to this war. Children are a real target“…

The rest here. As bad as all this is - and it is bad - the worst aspect of what’s in this piece is the part which focuses on the war on children which is so much a part of this chaos. Children as targets for rape, for abuse, for killing, as a source of cannon fodder. And, as usual, the Bootlicking Corporate Media in this country is ignoring this crisis as it spirals out of control. I have heard some very solid coverage on the BBC World Service, but even there, the coverage isn’t consistent.

But it is always depressing. And frustrating.

Americans - especially American politicians - don’t want to go near this place. They’re all suffering from “Blackhawk Down Syndrome,” as a voice on the BBC put it recently. Too many bad memories of dead American soldiers being dragged through the streets. And, of course, as in Darfur, the problem seems so intractable as to be utterly hopeless (especially because the longer the world goes without doing anything, the worse things get). And besides, it’s - once again - just a whole bunch of poor black people with no resources killing each other - again - so why should the West care?

You know, it’s funny: I used to see kids - usually teenagers - and folks who were old enough to know better spouting off about “anarchy.” A lot of the old school punks and proto-Goths railed on about the supposed glories of anarchy in their music. They’d spray paint that big goofy red “A” with the circle around it on walls and wear it on their black t-shirts. Even now, there’s an anarchist streak in a lot of radical bloggers out here in the cyber-sandbox. They go on and on about how great things would be if we could just give anarchy a try.

The thing is, we have. In the Balkins. In Rwanda. In Darfur. In Congo. And now in Somalia.

Look at the picture above. That’s what anarchy looks like. With a dose of apathy thrown in.

Somalia resources:

Inform yourselves. Time to get UNRULY!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The First Victims of War

...Are the Soldiers

This is my contribution to the Truth in Recruiting 'blog burst' called for by Anok @ Identity Check. Here's his theme:
Did you know that our government has forced high schools to open its doors to military recruiters? If a school refuses to allow them to recruit on campus, the government will pull their federal funding. Thats right, they're being blackmailed into allowing an open season on minors. Recruiters are meeting with, counseling and setting up recruitment with students as young as 15 years old, maybe younger.
Really. If you've ever seen Gwynne Dyer's excellent, nay definitive seven-part documentary WAR, you were probably struck by the episode entitled Anybody's Son Will Do. That explored the dehumanizing experience of a Marine inductee, or 'boot' at Paris Island. Boot - what does that name alone tell you? It's brutal, but not nearly so brutal as a battlefield - especially when that 'battlefield' in many cases is littered with more dead civilians than legitimate enemy combatants. Not a place for children, in or out of uniform. Dyer's exposé on the methods of turning a normal caring feeling person into a killing machine is burned into my consciousness. And it wasn't pretty.

(By the way, in passing I'd like to say DAMN YOU NFB! Canada's National Film Board owns the copyright to Dyer's documentary series, which has never been made available on DVD for purchase, let alone freely streamed on the web. This is after my tax dollars helped produce the series. Did I say DAMN YOU NFB? Oh, yeah I did. Well, I really meant it.)

I can't do nearly as good a job on this topic as Anok has already done, nor as good as Reconstitution's Jolly Roger has already done, and certainly not as good as Quaker Dave has already done right here at Les Enragé, but I can make you aware of those posts and urge you to read them. And I can echo QDave's sentiment, "Keep Your Bloody Hands Off Our Children." QDave's post has a list of things you can do to combat the ghouls who hang around the schools. Most important:
  1. Write a letter to your local newspaper, explaining what most parents don’t know: that parents are allowing the privacy of their families to be violated if they allow their child’s school to share this information. Inform them they can opt out. It’s easy. Forms for that purpose can be downloaded here.

Another small contribution I can make is to present this wonderful video, an old clip of the late, great Phil Ochs, in my opinion the greatest protest singer of all time.
I Ain't Marchin' Anymore - Phil Ochs

One other thing I can do is link to this article from Alternet (h/t Jump to the Left) about how the military is trying to make themselve look hip to attract more recruits.
Teenagers, be warned: Military recruiters have armed themselves with "Wat up, dude?" and "nmu" in their effort to lure you to Iraq. (For those who lack daily interaction with teens, "nmu" means "Not much. You?")

As headlines reveal that the military is lowering standards to meet its recruiting goals, the Pentagon is trying new techniques to connect with Millennials -- those born between 1980 and 2000, formerly known as Generation Y.

In September, the website Entropic Memes reported that attendees at last spring's Annual Navy Workforce Research and Analysis Conference were given a slideshow presentation titled "The Road to a 2025 Total Force: Talkin 'bout Their Generation."

At the presentation, ad executive Arthur Mitchell, director of strategic planning for Campbell-Ewald, the agency behind the Navy's Accelerate Your Life campaign, talked about the inability of Navy recruiters to connect with today's young people.
And one more thing - as a bonus. While my mind was on Phil Ochs anyway, here's another one of his tunes, my favorite. It wasn't available by him on YouTube, but this cover was. And being a monster songwriter in his own right, Gordon Lightfoot does NOT do many covers. That should tell you something. Enjoy.
Gordon Lightfoot: Changes

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Friday, December 14, 2007

Throw Another Log On The Fire

Throw one on! Let it rip!

Currently 18 Degrees here at the Unconventional Pad, with windchill, -8 and this very mean spirited tiny, beady snow. Logs Must Be Thrown On Fires.


Thursday, December 13, 2007

Lawless Thugs

...Paid With YOUR Tax Dollars

Perhaps you've heard the horrifying story of Jamie Leigh Jones. Here's an excerpt from ABC news:
A Houston, Texas woman says she was gang-raped by Halliburton/KBR coworkers in Baghdad, and the company and the U.S. government are covering up the incident.

Jamie Leigh Jones, now 22, says that after she was raped by multiple men at a KBR camp in the Green Zone, the company put her under guard in a shipping container with a bed and warned her that if she left Iraq for medical treatment, she'd be out of a job.

"Don't plan on working back in Iraq. There won't be a position here, and there won't be a position in Houston," Jones says she was told.

In a lawsuit filed in federal court against Halliburton and its then-subsidiary KBR, Jones says she was held in the shipping container for at least 24 hours without food or water by KBR, which posted armed security guards outside her door, who would not let her leave.
According to her lawsuit, Jones was raped by "several attackers who first drugged her, then repeatedly raped and injured her, both physically and emotionally." Jones told that an examination by Army doctors showed she had been raped "both vaginally and anally," but that the rape kit disappeared after it was handed over to KBR security officers.
Outrageous as that first appeared, some new details emerge in this video from Countdown:
"Barbarian Invaders"

(h/t Fernando @ Rancho La Luna)

There is so much to be outraged about here, it's hard to know where to begin. First, how did this story escape the attention of the Corporate Owned Media (COM) FOR TWO YEARS?!? After all, it involves a young attractive white girl in distress in a foreign land. Doesn't that make it a top story? But wait, such stories only take precedent when they serve to bury a bigger story embarrassing to the government. This story only embarrasses the government further.

Seder's remarks should cause embarrassment to the COM as well. "In fact, that's the story of the entire occupation and invasion of Iraq. Complete lack of informed consent from the American public." And it is the COM who have assiduously avoided informing the public.

The main focus is and should be the question of jurisdiction. In trying to pursue justice, Mrs. Jones has found herself in a legal limbo created quite deliberately to shield KBR and its employees.
Legal experts say Jones' alleged assailants will likely never face a judge and jury, due to an enormous loophole that has effectively left contractors in Iraq beyond the reach of United States law.

"It's very troubling," said Dean John Hutson of the Franklin Pierce Law Center. "The way the law presently stands, I would say that they don't have, at least in the criminal system, the opportunity for justice.
That enormous loophole is of course the infamous (or it would be infamous if only more Americans knew it even existed - thanks again COM) Rule 17, put in place by Paul Bremer, neocon extraordinaire.
(From Smirking Chimp):

On June 27 2004, the day before the United States was to grant sovereignty to a new Iraqi government and disband the coalition provisional authority, Paul Bremer, the US proconsul, issued a stunning new order. One of the final acts of the CPA, Order 17, declared that foreign contractors within Iraq, including private military firms, would not be subject to any Iraqi laws - "all International Consultants shall be immune from Iraqi legal process," it read. "Congratulations to the new Iraq!" Bremer said moments before flying out. His memoir, My Year in Iraq, neglects to mention Order 17.
Order 17's grant of immunity to contractors guaranteed that more than half of the foreign presence on the ground - for US-paid contractors outnumber US military personnel - would operate for all intents and purposes beyond the law. Order 17 also undercut the authority of the US military, frustrating command and control of the battlefield and upsetting sensitive counterinsurgency strategies. Order 17 meant that the monopoly of violence was fractured and outsourced to those not subject to the law. By unilateral fiat Order 17 uniquely created a red zone of impunity covering the entire country.

A radical break with US policy, such an order had never been promulgated before. Order 17 should not be confused with a status of force agreement negotiated with sovereign nations such as South Korea. Those agreements are subject to complex bargaining and mutual assurance. Nor are contractors subject to the uniform code of military justice because, after all, they are not in the US military. Nor has the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act of 2000 been brought to bear on contractors in Iraq.
The result of all this legal legerdemain, as reported by Raw Story, is a near certainty that the guilty will go free.

A brave and savvy undergraduate questioned pResident Bush about this very same red zone of impunity on April 10, 2006. His response tells the tale.

"I don't mean to be dodging the question."

"..although it'd be kinda convenient in this case.

I can't believe he actually said that! In public! That and the nervous tics, smirking and giggling indicate that he knows EXACTLY what jurisdiction applies to his hired thugs - none whatsoever, by design. Notice that the unidentified questioner has already queried SecDef Rumsfeld about this and gotten a similar runaround.

This is of course of a piece with the Bush vision of law and order - the laws simply don't apply to them or their enablers, because they run the DoJ as if it was a wholly owned proprietary interest, not a function of the people's government.

If that hasn't got you fuming fit to blow your stack, Jon Swift (a self-described 'reasonable conservative') blogs about the response from less reasonable neo-conservatives - "Jamie Leigh Jones Undermines the War Effort." Seriously, this is one of those occasions where I've wished I believed that there was an especially hot corner of hell for people like this to spend eternity. The players referred to are "Rusty Shackleford at The Jawa Report, Curt at Flopping Aces and former humor blogger Ace of Spades." (Standard warning: Don't Click on Wingnuts. (DCOW)
Ace, quoting his doppelganger the Church Lady, says Jones' story is "too convenient." Curt, who supports actor Fred Thompson for President, says it sounds "too movie like." Shackleford, no doubt wrinkling his brow and rubbing his beard thoughtfully as the wheels spin in his brain, if he has one (a beard, that is), writes, "It's perfect. Too perfect.
Update: Bob Owens, a.k.a. Confederate Yankee, the blogosphere's Miss Marple, is on the case. If anyone can find a link between Jones and the terrorists, he can."
With thinking like that governing the reight wing, one must ask; how the hell are they doing such a good job of tearing down democracy in America? The uncomfortable answer must be that people on the left are doing such a piss poor job of opposing them. There seems to be an assumption that, "this is America. The problem will correct itself."

Well, let me remind you - Richard Nixon went unpunished. The Iran/Contra traitors were mostly pardoned by Bush Sr., and some of them now have successful careers on right-wing talk radio for cryin' out loud. Many of those involved in Iran/Contra went on to serve in the current government, despite their criminal records. The system has failed monumentally to self-correct in the past.

Your options are limited. You can resolve to actively do everything in your power to stop this lawlessness (even if that means a loss of income or lowering of lifestyle expectations), or you can prepare to spend the rest of your days weeping over the demise of democracy. Your choice.
Addendum: Also from the Jon Swift post, an indication that this is far from being an isolated case.
Although there was a rape kit that confirmed she was sexually assaulted, it was lost and found again and the doctor who performed it doesn't remember doing it. "I have no idea which rape victim you are," the doctor told Jones, "because so many young contractor girls were raped after drinking with the guys…. I performed so many rape kits in the six months that I was stationed there that there would be no way to recall whom (sic) yours was."
Geez, Louise! Am I the only one who thinks that, I don't know, maybe something ought to be done about this?!?
"With every new revelation, I think, 'Is this it?
Will this finally shake people out of their complacency?' "
-- RevPhat --
I certainly hope so.

Read More at The Jamie Leigh Foundation

UPDATE: From Think Progress - Rep Poe (R. - TX), Ms. Leigh Jones' congressman, and Sen. Ben Nelson (D. - FL) are both looking into allegations that this is not an isolated incident. Considering the quote above from the doctor who performed the rape kit, I would think they will find the allegations to be substantiated.

UPDATE II: From ABC News: The House Judiciary Committee will be hearing testimony on this matter starting next Wednesday. Given past performance, don't hold your breath waiting for any substantial result.

Cross-posted at Ice Station Tango and The Unconventional Conventionist

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The only thing we have to fear is...

… stupid questions like the one Katie Couric was posing on The CBS Evening News last night.

(CBS News) Dec. 12- For the series “Primary Questions: Character, Leadership
& The Candidates,” CBS News anchor Katie Couric asked the 10 leading presidential candidates 10 questions designed to go beyond politics and show what really makes them tick.

For the fourth part of the special series “Primary Questions,” Couric asked the candidates: “What country frightens you the most?”In a new CBS News / New York Times poll, Iran was named most often by Americans asked what country they fear most, followed by Iraq and China. Two percent said the United States is its own worst enemy.

You can read a transcript of this thing here, if you want to. I’ll give you a few highlights, if you want to save time:

- Joe Biden is afraid of Pakistan and Iran.

- Hillary Clinton is frightened of Pakistan.

- John Edwards hides under the bed when he hears the word “China.”

- Rudy Giuliani and Mike Huckabee start screaming “Run away! Run away!” when they think of Iran, too.

- John “Straight Talk” McCain is afeared of Iran, too, but he’s even more afraid of someplace called “radical Islamic extremism.” I couldn’t find that place on Google Earth, by the way.

- Barack Obama and Bill Richardson both wet themselves at the thought of… can you guess? Very good! Iran wins again!

- Mitt Romney made sure he covered all his fears by listing Iran, North Korea, and Russia. That way, when someone asks him the question again, he has a better chance of guessing right as to what he said the first time…

- Fred Thompson is afraid of the “zealotry of the mullahs.” Or something.

Like, am I the only one in the room who thinks this whole question is, like, way stupid? Do we really want to hear that all of these people, each of whom want to be our next president, are afraid of these countries? China worries me, but that’s for largely reasons of our own making, mostly having to do with our economic and trade connections to them. That, and the fact that their military is growing by the day. But seriously, Iran? Pakistan? North Korea? People in North Korea have nothing to eat, for pity’s sake. Neither Iran nor Pakistan would have been nearly the threat they both supposedly are if we hadn’t invaded Iraq and destabilized the whole region (not to mention pissing off millions of people), and done a lot of the other nonsense in that area of the world that’s passed for “foreign policy” since World War Two.

C’mon now, this is a question for a would-be leader? I have a better idea. How about this one, Katie: Why not ask “What country on the planet would you most like to build a diplomatic and economic bridge to? Who should we be reaching out to that we’re not reaching out to now?” See, that’s what a real leader would do. Build, not destroy. Reach out, not push away. Embrace, not attack.

I don’t know about you, but you know what my answer would be? The country I fear the most is The Land of Stupid.

And some days, when I hear and read stuff like this, I feel like I live there.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Where’s the Holy Spirit When Mike Huckabee Needs It?

The "I just can't keep my mouth shut" award to Mike Huckabee.

Between quarantining AIDS patients, having wives everywhere joyfully subservient to their husbands ("A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ.") ..... we can now add, 'don't" Mormons believe jesus and Satan are brothers? Oopps - forgot the 'oh, now - global warming is just a tad 'overblown.' Doinnkkkk!

Please - please - keep it up . . . . ya fucking idjuts.

Really. I don't care at all for Blandana Mitt, especially given that he's right up there with the best of the "whenever I open my mouth stupid shit falls out and think I look great while saying it, dimwits. But doggamn it!™This is taking away from the REAL ISSUES of :

  1. Who would Jesus shoot?*
  2. Who would Jesus waterboard.
  3. Who would Jesus send to Guantanamo?
  4. Who would Jesus stop at the border?
  5. What language would Jesus speak?
Of course, I'm sure I'm missing a few. Feel free to add to the doggamned™ list.

∞ ∞ ∞

*h/t Jenn! My "LDS friend" in SLC while discussing the Holy Spirit's "role" in the death of shooter Matthew Murphy at the New Life Church in Colorado Springs.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

It's All In The Mix

So many cocktails, so little time...

First, there's the Giggling Dingbat

Then there's the "Hot Air for Two", guaranteed to melt the Arctic in about 2 seconds flat.

For something a little sweeter, there's the "Peach on the Table"

If you've been entirely kicked around, there's the "My Balls Hurt."

Hey, if you don't like any of these cocktails, bitch at Kvatch, and get him to make you one.

There's always silly music to rely on, Bless The Muses....

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One of Their Very Own

I hadn't followed too closely the shootings in Colorado that apparently are megachurch-related. Yesterday, my daughter and I were semi-watching CNN, while my 2 year-old granddaughter chased the cats into their secret hiding places. When CNN gave the ages of the two young sisters murdered, I saw my daughter wince because we know that 16 and 18 are pretty damned young. I cannot imagine the grief of those parents nor could my daughter as she watched her own little daughter race down the hall after the cats.

∞ ∞ ∞

However, when this first broke yesterday some member of the New Life Church described the shooter as your 'typical, dressed in black, societal reject' - leading to one perhaps surmising, it was most likely some pimply-faced Satan-worshiping shit-hole. How I wish I had the link to that interview now. Because NOW, it appears this is just NOT the case.

I did catch this on Yahoo News. The young shooter was a home-schooled, deeply religious 24 year-old who had been enrolled at the Youth With a Mission, a training center in Arvada, Colorado some five years previous. The shooter's younger brother attends Oral Roberts University.

∞ ∞ ∞

What I also find interesting in the crediting of G*d - or at least their God - with miracles.

Jessie Gingrich, who had left New Life and was in the parking lot getting into her car, saw the gunman get a rifle from his trunk and open fire on a van with people inside. Gingrich said she cowered in her vehicle, fumbling with the key.

"I was just expecting for the next gunshot to be coming through my car. Miraculously — by the grace of God — it did not," she told ABC's "Good Morning America."

But this, THIS, had to be strangest, most fucked up thing I saw today.

Assam said, "I give the credit to God. And I say that very humbly. God was with me and the whole time I was behind cover -- this has got to be God, because of the firepower that [the gunman] had vs. what I had -- was God. I did not run away and I didn't think for a minute to run away, I just knew that I was given the assignment to end this before it got too much worse. I just prayed for the Holy Spirit to guide me."

"I just prayed for the Holy Spirit to guide me."

So 'the Lord' and/or the Holy Spirit assisted her in killing this shooter. A shooter who came from their midst. Now, perhaps the shooter felt God was guiding HIM to kill as well. After all, he was reportedly hearing, listening to, and responding to - voices.

Well, I guess as long as they're killing each other .....

Now my friend, Quaker Dave, brought this up on Sunday, and the ensuing discussion of my unruly mates is worth reading.

I don't know.

It just seems crazy to me, and most assuredly to assign credit to the Holy Spirit of all entities for such a destructive act. Because I don't think that's about G*d in any way or semblance. I think it's about our choices and subsequent actions.

It does fit, however, with the new-found and exploited militarism within Christianity (evangelicalism and fundamentalism specifically); the characterization of Christ, God, and now the Holy Spirit as warriors; the separation from others within our broader society, and the affluence to accommodate that with the establishment of their own 'community' to broaden their influence. Who can forget the preening of children for God in 'Jesus Camp'? What about the 'Left Behind' series?

It is all about the lie of needing to living separate, except when proselytizing and bringing in others 'less fortunate'; it's all about that separation from those who are "unworthy" and "unacceptable in the eyes of God", and that someone is better than another; it's about deforming and prostituting the message of the gospel, using it and exploiting until it becomes the very evil they rail against. It is not the message of G*d, Jesus Christ, and certainly not the message of the Holy Spirit.


Holy Drinking Water, Batman!

I'm not feeling very well today. I don't feel downright evil or anything, just achy. Still, some liquid holiness might well be just what Dr. Jesus ordered.

From Newsweek (h/t Russ):
[I]t's not surprising that a few savvy marketers would seize on this universal symbol of purity for financial gain. Inspired, perhaps, by vitamin and energy waters, a number of new companies have begun making more explicit claims: their water doesn't just promote good health, it actually makes you good. Holy Drinking Water, produced by a California-based company called Wayne Enterprises, is blessed in the warehouse by an Anglican or Roman Catholic priest (after a thorough background check). Like a crucifix or a rosary, a bottle of Holy Drinking Water is a daily reminder to be kind to others, says Brian Germann, Wayne's CEO. Another company makes Liquid OM, superpurified bottled water containing vibrations that promote a positive outlook. Invented by Kenny Mazursky, a sound therapist in Chicago, the water purportedly possesses an energy field that Mazursky makes by striking a giant gong and Tibetan bowls in its vicinity. He says the good energy can be felt not just after you drink the water but before, when you're holding the bottle.

The most recent entry in this niche is Spiritual Water. It's purified municipal water, sold with 10 different Christian labels. The Virgin Mary bottle, for example, has the Hail Mary prayer printed on the back in English and Spanish. Spiritual Water helps people to "stay focused, believe in yourself and believe in God," says Elicko Taieb, the Florida-based company's founder who was formerly in the pest-control business. All three companies give a portion of their profits to charity.

I've heard stories about Catholics using holy water for all sorts of practical applications. Your car's hanging on for dear life and you need to squeeze twenty or thirty thousand miles more out of it, pour a little bit of that holy water in the carburetor and you're riding with the Lord.

Putting a price tag on it, that's priceless.

Cross-posted from Ice Station Tango

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Monday, December 10, 2007

BREAKING: CIA Interrogator Tells ABC He Supervised 'Necessary' Torture of Abu Zubaydah

TPM informs that there's a breaking story at ABC.

In the first public comment by any CIA officer involved in handling high-value al Qaeda targets, John Kiriakou, now retired, said the technique broke Zubaydah in less than 35 seconds.
Spencer Ackerman astutely notes:
... First, Kiriakou's televised confession undermines CIA Director Michael Hayden's stated rationale for the destruction of interrogation videos. Hayden has said the tapes were destroyed to protect the identities of interrogators from al-Qaeda reprisal. Clearly Kiriakou doesn't feel that his life is in danger.

Second, Kiriakou also doesn't think that the torture was right, even if he says it had some intelligence value. It can't possibly be an easy thing for him to admit, and he has conflicting feelings about what he did.
Methinks that we are witnessing the beginning of the crack in the walls of the nuthouse administration. Witnesses on the record re: torture, revised NIE, what else is going to happen this week?

Sunday, December 09, 2007

The war at home, continued.

I can’t believe the news today…

I can’t close my eyes and make it go away…

Sunday, bloody Sunday:

ARVADA, Colo. (AP) Dec. 9 - A gunman killed two people at a training center dormitory for young Christian missionaries early Sunday after being told he couldn’t spend the night, and hours later four people were shot outside a church in Colorado Springs.

It was not immediately known whether the shootings, about 65 miles apart, were related. No arrests had been made in either attack by afternoon.

The conditions of the four people shot Sunday afternoon in Colorado Springs, in the parking lot of the New Life Church, was not immediately known, El Paso County Sheriff’s Lt. Lari Sevene said.

The first shooting happened at about 12:30 a.m. at the Youth With a Mission center in Arvada, a Denver suburb, police spokeswoman Susan Medina said.

A man and a woman were killed and two men were wounded, Medina said. All four were staff members with the center, said Paul Filidis, a Colorado Springs-based spokesman with Youth With a Mission.

The gunman came to the door of the Arvada dormitory seeking shelter, asking if he could spend the night, said Peter Warren, director of Youth With a Mission Denver.

When told he couldn’t stay, the man walked inside, opened fire, then left on foot, Warren said. Warren said he didn’t know if any of the students or staff knew the gunman. “We don’t know why” he came to the dormitory, Warren said.

Witnesses told police that the gunman was a 20-year-old white male, wearing a dark jacket and skull cap, who left on foot. He may have glasses or a beard...

The rest is here. So. Again. First at a shopping mall, now at a youth facility and then at a church. On a Sunday morning. In both cases, young white males with guns on a rampage. Not your stereotypical, media fall-guy “thugs.” If this description holds up, the shooter will look like the one from Omaha. He’ll look like my kid. Your kid maybe. Your nephew. Your neighbor. Your student. Your classmate. The kid who delivers your pizza, or who dates your daughter.And once again, he’ll be another disturbed individual with all-too-easy access to firearms.

We are so-rightly so outraged about a senseless war on the other side of the world.

WHERE is the outrage here?

How long must we sing this song?

AN UPDATE: The death toll is now FIVE.